The directors of the four branches of the Tate museums group—Tate Britain’s Alex Farguharson, Tate Modern’s Frances Morris, Tate Liverpool’s Helen Legg, and Tate St Ives’s Anne Barlow—have declared a climate emergency. In a joint statement released on Wednesday, they pledged to reduce Tate’s carbon footprint by at least 10% by 2023, and announced that Tate is switching to green energy. They also pledged to “interrogate our systems, our values, and our programs,” adding that they are adopting a train-first travel policy.
The move came on the heels of Tate Modern opening a retrospective devoted to Olafur Eliasson, who has made work about climate change in the past. In their statement, the Tate directors said:
We took his ethical commitment to addressing environmental issues as a cue to offer a platform for discussion in partnership with artists, campaigners, artistic communities and cultural organisations. [. . .] As an organisation that works with living artists, we should respond to and amplify their concerns. And, as our audiences and communities across the world confront climate extinction, so we must shine a spotlight on this critical issue through art.
The directors’ statement highlighted the work already done at the museums, from sustainably sourcing their restaurants’ food to helping to develop “international green museum principles for the care of collections.” However, Tate has also been on the wrong side of climate change advocacy in the past, most notably when it was the focus of a six-year-long campaign of creative protests by Liberate Tate over its sponsorship deal with oil giant BP. BP’s sponsorship of Tate ended in 2017.